With the Twilight series ending this year, Hollywood saw an opening to launch for a new teen franchise. Much like Twilight, The Hunger Games is based on a series of best-selling novels and already had a mass-following prior to the film’s production, so it was the perfect replacement.
Throw in some attractive leads (Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth), a credible supporting cast (Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson) and a mix of both action and romance to entertain both genders – and you’ve got a guaranteed money-maker.
As someone who hasn’t read the books and knew nothing prior to watching the movie, I wasn’t overly excited from what I had seen in the trailers. To me, it seemed like a less-gory version of the cult Japanese slaughter-fest, Battle Royale. Battle Royale plunged a class of ninth-grade students onto a deserted island with a mix of weapons and supplies, and forced them to kill or be killed until one student remained.
And after seeing the first installment The Hunger Games, it seems that any comparisons with Battle Royale are completely justified. It’s basically the exact same concept – a group of teenagers are placed in an isolated arena, provided with random weapons and supplies, and forced to fight to the death.
And while The Hunger Games provides more back-story to the characters involved and explains why The Games exist – this isn’t actually a good thing. Plus, all the unnecessary violence and weird sexuality of Battle Royale has been removed for commercial audiences – which is actually a bad thing.
I know that this is the first of a trilogy but director Gary Rossspends too long setting up the story. They don’t actually start The Game until halfway through the film. It would have been a lot more exciting if they opened as they are standing on their platforms, anticipating their first moves, and then cut back to explain how they became involved and why The Hunger Games exist.
Obviously this is a big opportunity for Jennifer Lawrence but it will be interesting to see what path she takes from here. Hopefully she doesn’t stop doing low-budget indies altogether, because her performance in The Winter’s Bone was impressive.
For all the publicity Liam Hemsworth gained, he actually receives very little screen time. Although much like Taylor Lautner in the first Twilight, he will obviously play a larger part in future instalments.
The supporting cast are all at the top of their games. Donald Sutherland and Woody Harrelson steal the show, even with their roles cut-back to save running time. However, apparently Harrelson’s character is a lot drunker in the books, which I would have liked to see more of.
Stanley Tucci and Elizabeth Banks provide most of the comic relief, and were effective, but I can’t help think they were second-round casting choices for Sacha Baron Cohen and Parker Posey.
All in all, The Hunger Games isn’t horrible – it has more substance and better acting than any of the Twilight films. But if you’re looking for action and thrills, I’d go and see The Raid or hire Battle Royaleinstead.
The Hunger Games opened in theatres nationally on Thursday 22 March.